Under An Island Sun – Episode 23

The main characters from the story

What was left of the evening continued much as it had before. Mairi seemed to be quieter, but Philippe put it down to her having had a long day.

Having booked the next day off work, he took Nicole to Corralejo at the north of the island.

They sunbathed on the beach and wandered round the old town and harbour, with views across the water to neighbouring Lanzarote, with its own volcanoes glowing brown and ochre, before eating at a fish restaurant as the light began to fade.

It felt almost like the early days of their time together, when they’d enjoyed romantic meals and Philippe had thought her the most captivating woman he had ever met.

In many ways she still was, despite being infuriating and not in favour with his friends.

With such a combination of looks and temperament, arguably their path together was never destined to be smooth.

Nicole smiled at him, stirring the old feeling that he could move worlds for her.

“I can see why people come here for holidays.” She took a sip of wine and gazed over the water. “When does your job finish?’

Philippe had to think. Time had passed so quickly that he’d lost track. Part of him felt he could happily stay here for ever.

“In a month or so. Isabella’s pregnancy is being monitored closely and she has more help at home, so Chris is able to devote more time to the business.

“I think he’s glad to get out and about again. He’s interviewing drivers who live on the island, ready to replace us when we leave.”

“So you will soon be free to leave.” It wasn’t a question. “That’s excellent. I have seen some jobs that are perfect for me in Paris.

“I’ve already got details of promising apartments. Once we have moved, you’ll soon find something. You’ll see.”

She leaned forward.

“It will be an exciting new life for both of us.”

Philippe hesitated.

“I was planning to go back to teaching at the school at La Rochelle.”

“But they replaced you.”

“Only temporarily.”

He had checked with the headmaster after his conversation with Mairi and Antonio.

Nicole put her glass down abruptly.

“Then tell them to replace you permanently. You could fall in love with Paris if you let yourself.”

“It’s very different from what I’ve always known.”

She leaned across and placed her hand over his.

“You and I are also very different, yet we fell in love with each other and here we are.”

Maybe Nicole was right, Philippe thought. Maybe he could fall in love with Paris as he had fallen in love with her.

She raised her glass.

“To us.”

“To us,” Philippe repeated as they clinked glasses.

While Philippe and Nicole were in Corralejo, Hilary, Mairi and Antonio were on another tour, with Chris taking Philippe’s place.

“Isabella is much improved, and the business is finally gaining a firmer footing as people realise that we offer a better experience than the others,” he told Hilary.

“Most of the tours are fully booked, and today’s no exception.”

Antonio would be driving Hilary home, due to Mairi meeting up with Graham for a swim before enjoying a meal at a beachside restaurant.

“He’s leaving Fuerteventura at the end of this week and transferring to a resort in Greece for the new season there.”

“How do you feel about that?” Hilary asked.

“OK, if a little sad to say goodbye,” Mairi admitted.

“He said at the start that he’d be moving, and I’ll be going back to England before much longer, so we both knew this was on the cards.

“We’ve had a good time together, so that’s the main thing.”

“It’s done you the power of good,” Hilary agreed. “You might meet up after you get home.”

“We’ll make the usual noises about keeping in touch, but I think this is a farewell drink.”

“Or perhaps he will get down on one knee in the sand and . . .” Antonio spread out his hands.

As Hilary laughed along with the others, she realised that she would miss moments like this when it was time to go.

The feelings she had experienced when first introduced to Antonio had mostly been kept at bay, replaced by a comfortable companionship.

Maybe it was her imagination, but she couldn’t help noticing odd, unguarded moments when his eyes lost their sparkle, hinting there was more to him than appeared on the surface.

Then again, she hadn’t opened up about her past, either.

Once they’d said goodbye to their passengers, she sat back to enjoy the drive through landscape that she had initially found bleak and arid, but which now felt like home.

To be continued…

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